Does your neighborhood affect your diabetes risk?

If you live in a neighborhood that isn't conducive to walking, you're about 33 percent more likely to develop diabetes, according to new research.

A team from St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto found that residents who live in areas that require using cars or public transportation more often because of farther proximity to stores or retail destinations are more likely to be obese and have diabetes.

"Although diabetes can be prevented through physical activity, healthy eating and weight loss, we determined the environment in which one lives is also an important indicator of one's risk," said study co-author Dr. Gillian Booth, an endocrinologist and researcher with St. Michael's.

Population density also a factor

Booth and her team also measured how population density affected risk for obesity and diabetes. Not surprisingly, walkable areas were more densely populated (like city centers). While density and "walkability" are two factors have been found to predict certain health outcomes individually, combined they shed more light on how environment affects health, the researchers said.

"We focused on density and destinations because they're potentially modifiable," said co-author Dr. Rick Glazier, research director in the Department of Family and Community Medicine of St. Michael's Hospital. "Policy makers, planners and public health officials can use either of these measures to inform urban design and improve community health."

Transportation differences

The study found that people who live in densely populated areas where walking is easier are twice as likely to walk, bike or take public transportation. People who live in areas that are far from destinations like grocery stores are significnatly more likely to drive.

The research, which was published in PLOS One, follows Dr. Booth and Glazier's earlier studies on how neighborhoods influence health - their 2007 research explored diabetes rates among areas with different income levels, unemployment rates, or minority populations.

Source: St. Michael's Hospital

Image courtesy of winnod/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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